Author: Shellie Arnold
Publisher: Iron Stream Media
In a break from my usual reading, I decided to try a new book that I got back at the beginning of the year called Abide With Me by Shellie Arnold. I put it off for a while as I don’t read a lot of “romance” novels, and the only ones that come close are books by Karen Kingsbury. I would place Abide With Me in a similar category as some of Kingsbury’s early books. It is Christian, but not preachy. It is a love story, but not a romance. It teaches, but it is first a good story. This book is about love, healing, and what it takes to make a marriage work.
To begin, I found out after reading that this is actually book three in a series! Even so, I didn’t find that I was missing any crucial information to get into the story or understand the plot. However, maybe once I read the other two books I’ll change my mind. Whatever the case, I enjoyed this book, and I thought it did well as a stand alone novel. I have a feeling that there are a few characters whose backstories were in the other two books, thus connecting the series, but not enough was missing that made me feel lost while reading.
Overall, I found the story enjoyable. The book is broken into three parts. You start in the middle of the characters’ story before returning to the beginning of the couple’s relationship. The rest of the novel flows chronologically, following them through time to where the book began and their conclusion. The story brings you from the early days of their marriage and through their difficult years. As I said, this is a love story, not a romance, so I found the typical romantic scenes beautiful to read in this book. Sort of a “less is more” type of writing. Like a sonnet, the briefer the image, the more creative and beautiful the writer has to write.
Unfortunately, their marriage is not in sync, and they both suffer because of it. You cannot help but feel frustrated for them both as you read, knowing what is about to come next but having no way to stop it and help them. Perhaps you will see the warning signs in your own marriage or relationship, and maybe you’ll use their mistakes as lessons before you make your own. The end of the book makes both people face the facts of their marriage and forces them into a choice: do you heal what you have or call it quits?
The story was convincing and realistic. While a broken (or breaking) marriage is not what you typically find in love stories, I think that choosing that topic for a novel is a good thing. Relationships, marriage, life – it’s all messy. There are ups and downs and real consequences to our actions and feelings. In this, the author did a great job crafting the story.
My only real complaint is that I felt like I didn’t have enough time to get to know the characters at the beginning of their story together. The time jumps between periods of their relationship were a little broad and almost always just the rough patches. I would have liked to see more joy, more together time, and a gradual distancing between them. What were they growing apart from? What were the first days actually like? Perhaps I am pulling too much from the joy and (oftentimes stressful) adventures of my early days of marriage, but I don’t think so. The pacing could have been a lot better, even if it resulted in making the book a little longer. But that is my only real complaint about the story.
Like other similar books, this book also has discussion questions at the end for couples, or even just the reader, to go through after finishing at the reader’s leisure. I don’t think you lose much from not reading them, but they are not there arbitrarily. Shellie Arnold is a marriage coach, so I would not take her guidance lightly. She’s also been through a lot herself, and she has an incredible story.
I enjoyed this book overall. Despite the serious subject matter, Abide With Me was an easy read, and I finished it in only a couple of days. This book would be enjoyable for those who like love stories, and also for those looking for answers and lessons in marriage. This book demonstrates how time and proximity can build a marriage, and the absence thereof will kill it. “Love must be sincere.” I learned a lot in this book, and I enjoyed reading it all along the way. I definitely look forward to reading the first two books in the series! And I hope you will check them out as well.
Blessings to you and yours,
~Madelyn Rose Craig